The legendary golem—a lump of clay brought to life by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague—again comes to life in this adaptation by Kimmel (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins), who infuses it with a good touch of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. One day when Rabbi Judah needs to meet with the emperor, he leaves his servant girl Basha to prepare the house for Hanukkah, with the assistance of the golem. The result is a town full of latkes, which can fuel a big Hanukkah party. Kimmel has the pacing of a comic, and the illustrations by Jasinski (The Heart’s Language) are richly detailed. A selection of the PJ Library. Ages 5–8. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
The legend of the golem dates to the 16th century Czech rabbi Judah Lowe who allegedly created a mud monster to defend the Jewish people against prevalent anti-Semitic attacks. The story, told in a Caldecott winning-version by David Wisniewski in 2007, portrays the golem as a kind of mute superhero who can be activated with the Hebrew word "emet" (truth) or, in some versions, the secret name of God. When the Golem's powerful defenses are no longer needed, he is deactivated by removing a letter from "emet" so that the word is "met" (death). Storyteller Eric Kimmel has not so much adapted the golem tale as made it into a Disney-like fantasy, specifically the Fantasia version of the Sorcerer's Apprentice. In this version which seems to have been created with Hanukkah marketing in mind, the golem is a benevolent servant who builds or cooks on command. When the rabbi's household servant orders him to make potato latkes and then leaves him to his own devices, the unstoppable helper fills the streets of Prague with pancakes, enough to feed all of the people, both Jewish and gentile. Without knowledge of the back-story and the true need for a champion to protect the Jews from the pogroms of that historical period, this is a benign tale. However, when the rabbi goes off to have a "long talk" with the Emperor Rudolf and leaves the golem to do household chores, Kimmel's "Disneyfication" goes a little too far. The illustrations are lush, but even they look redundant as Basha, the servant girl, bears more than a passing resemblance to the wenches in Beauty and the Beast and the Rabbi Lowe, marching off to his meeting with the emperor, is only missing a "heigh ho" to be a Jewish member of the cast of Snow White. For folklore purists, stick with the Wisniewski version of the story. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
The renowned Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague and his mythical golem appear in this Hanukkah fairy tale inspired byThe Sorcerer's Apprenticeand reminiscent of Tomie dePaola'sStrega Nona.
Rabbi Judah has much to do but little time. When he must visit the emperor, he allows his new housemaid, Basha, the assistance of the golem to clean the house and make latkes for the first night of the Rabbi's Hanukkah party. Basha must direct the golem to stop his task by saying, "Golem, enough." Basha, however, is so impressed by the golem's effortless, incessant work she decides to visit a friend while the golem continues to "PEEL. CHOP. MIX. FRY." Hours later, a mountain of golden, crispy latkes overtakes the city walls, proving that the golem indeed does "have clay for brains ... [and] doesn't know when to quit." As all Prague residents happily partake in the Hanukkah delicacy, Basha wonders if a mountain of golem-baked hamantaschen can be possible for Purim.... Rich, earthy-toned acrylic paints on wood panels bring this predictable yet amusing Old World yarn to life with detailed brush strokes to invoke the mottling of the hand-molded clay giant or the silky fur of the Rabbi's wideshtreimelhat. The golem, which could be frightening, here is painted with a beatific smile and, despite his size, looks about as threatening as Gumby.
Kimmel's storytelling is effective in its use of suspense, humor, trope and repetition, making a fine read-aloud holiday treat. (author's note)(Picture book. 5-8)
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Spinning the Jewish legend of the golem into a tale inspired by "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," this book disappoints on several levels. When Rabbi Judah of Prague must meet with the Emperor right before the first night of Hanukkah, he tells his housemaid that she can have the golem's help making latkes for the evening's festivities but warns her not to leave it home alone. Predictably, the Basha goes to visit a friend, leaving the golem to make latkes until they spill out the door and fill the streets of the city. However, one must wonder how batches and batches of latkes are made from a single basket of potatoes. This conundrum is exacerbated by the general flatness of the narrative, in spite of a text perked up by the refrain "Peel. Chop. Mix. Fry. Peel. Chop. Mix. Fry." Richly hued acrylic-on-wood illustrations nicely depict golden latkes piled high, but are marred by the portrayal of the golem as a large gray Gumby-like figure with the letters EMET (Hebrew for "truth") etched on its forehead. By focusing solely on the golem as automaton, young readers unfamiliar with this character's rich and complex history in Jewish mysticism and literature are being shortchanged.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library